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2016 Books

Posted: 31 December 2016

I’ve fallen in love with reading once again. But it was only after July 2016 where I rediscovered it. I find books the best form of entertainment as I envision the entire novel or history in my head. It’s like watching a movie but I am the creator. Here’s the list of books I’ve read in 2016. I’ll be sure to keep a list for 2017.

Zero to One - Peter Thiel

This book was a gift from EF. A real funny one in fact. I went on an Amazon shopping spree and bought a series of books. This was one of them. Surprisingly, my sister had one at home too. So right now I have 3 of these books sitting in my home. I should find a way to give away 2 of them. It’s an interesting book on start-ups. The main takeaway I had was to literally create something. Hence, 0 to 1. 1 and beyond is possible too but 0 to 1 is supposedly the best. As with all start-up books, first mover advantage is not necessarily the best or the only route to success. Great book overall and extract key points that you feel are most relevant to your context.

Superintelligence - Nick Bostrom

Quite a heavy read to me. Talks about how we get to true AI and the dangers of it. Worrying about AI is a valid concern, but I honestly don’t think it’s possible for SkyNet or Transcendence (movie) to happen. I don’t think AI will ever have a consciousness, so I wasn’t really into this book.

Einstein Biography - Walter Isaacson

Great book with lots of myths busted! Einstein DID NOT fail math, contrary to popular belief. He was in fact a really smart guy since young. A really inspirational figure (ignore his marriage problems). I also liked the part about the war breaking out and hence no measurements could be made during the eclipse. It was quite fortuitous for him. I wonder what would have happened if the measurements were made. Would he be devastated and give up or still push on and solve General Relativity? Einstein was famous overnight because of his theory, and he didn’t really like the fame. He even lamented that fame distracts him from Science. Many other points to learn, and I’m actually still reading this.

Hell Island - Matthew Reilly

One of my favourite authors! I like the James Rollins Sigma Force series too, I’m still on that. This was a really thin book. Scarecrow, the protagonist, parachutes into an island in the middle of nowhere (pacific islands) only to discover that there’s a brutal battle going on. Turns out the battle was between enhanced gorillas (kinda sounds like planet of the apes), and as usual, Scarecrow and his team beat 300 enhanced gorillas. A little exaggerated, but that’s the standard action/thriller story.

The Tournament - Matthew Reilly

A refreshing twist by Reilly. He broke away from his conventional action packed novel. This was about a chess tournament. There was more mystery and crime solving in this. He inserted lots of erotic chapters, which was unnecessary in my opinion. Really really unnecessary because the main story was about the tournament. But I must say Reilly did his history research as the next Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Selim, lived a life of debauchery. I guess that’s why he inserted those parts. What I really like about Reilly is that the characters in his novel are crafted after people that really existed. It allows me to build a mental model of them and then search facts about them (which often matches Reilly’s depiction).

Scarecrow Returns - Matthew Reilly

The starting was a bit too ridiculous for me. The terrorist organization simply re-routing a nuke from Siberia to the missile launcher itself. That aside, it was an entertaining novel. Standard Reilly: Siege an island, get something. I loved the twist at the end though. Won’t mention it here so readers will have the joy of experiencing the twist.

Master Algorithm - Pedro Domingos

Great introduction to Machine Learning in general. It was a refreshing read for me because like many others, I hopped on the deep learning bandwagon. It reminded me of what I learnt in AI classes when I was an undergraduate. First order logic, genetic algorithms, SVMs, etc. Domingos classified ML into 5 tribes - Symbolists, Connectionists, Evolutionaries, Bayesians, Analogizers. I learnt more about each tribe and the history of it. In particular, Connectionists like to say that it is “inspired by the brain”, but I hardly think this is the case because we do not really understand our brain yet. Domingos concluded with Markov Logic Networks being very powerful. I’ve never heard of that before, so I should read more into that. Similar to Superintelligence, Domingos addresses the danger of AI. He believes that we won’t have to worry about it at all because it can’t become a conscious being.